With the Crazylegs Run behind us and (theoretically) warm weather upon us, Madison's active outdoor season is officially started. Do yourself a favor and ditch those blown-out running shoes and threadbare sweats for better performing duds. Do both, and more, at Catalyst, a recent addition to Madison's thriving fitness apparel scene.
Gail and Jim Stintzi opened the shop in September 2010, and it more than lives up to its multitask motto: Walk + Run + Bike + Yoga: Gear to go, good to go. Gail, an exercise enthusiast but by no means a hard-core athlete, has the retail chops, and previously worked at A Stone's Throw. Jim, a world-class runner, is head coach of the UW women's track program.
The mauve/orange/lime interior is cheerful and inviting, with a flatscreen that shows old black-and-white movies like the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan. I was greeted with a wag and a woof by Dexter, the Stintzis' Welsh corgi (that's his portrait hanging above a rack of running shirts, rendered by the Stintzis' artist daughter, Katie).
While the stock isn't extensive, it's chosen judiciously, with an eye toward quality, usability and fun. Many of the brands are familiar, like the North Face, Mountain Hardware, Icebreaker and Pearl Izumi; others less so. Alo (rhymes with halo), for example, is one of Gail's favorites. It stands for "air land ocean," and the energy-conscious L.A. company produces yoga apparel using such earth-friendly fabrics as bamboo jersey (fuschia cross-strap yoga top, $44; yoga pants, $50).
Catalyst offers a nice array of sport shoes, including the very cool New Balance Minimus trail shoe ($100). It's a good choice if you're interested in the emergent barefoot running movement but treasure your tootsies. And if you're new to the game and unsure what works best for you, you can have your gait videotaped and evaluated by staff on an in-store treadmill.
Other nifty items: the SPIbelt (stands for "small, personal items," of course) - a belt with a stretchy zippered pouch for carrying keys, iPod, phone, etc. ($30); some nice copper necklaces with dragonflies or hearts ($30-plus); and PilateSpa's "Wee Small Stretch Book" ($20).